After seven decades, The Blind Boys of Alabama continue to raise the roof.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
The Blind Boys of Alabama have been bottling lightning for more than 70 years. Friday they uncork their energy at Sunset Center.
It might be impossible to truly appreciate how transcendent that sort of staying power is, but a decade-by-decade sampling of the Gospel Hall of Famers’ illustrious career can help:
1950s: Originally the Happy Land Jubilee Singers, the Blind Boys recorded their first single, the tongue-in-cheek “I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine.” Smothered in deep southern blues and rich harmonies, the rootsy tune helped the gospel outfit build a name for itself on FM radio.
1960s: The Blind Boys became immersed in the Civil Rights Movement and performed at several benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1970s: One of the founding bandmembers, Clarence Fountain, returned to the group – after trying to pursue an unsuccessful solo career – and the original lineup was intact for the first time in nearly 10 years.
1980s: The Blind Boys hit the mainstream after gaining notoriety for their Broadway performance of Gospel at Colonus, which received a couple of OBIE Awards and even a Tony Award nod.
1990s: In 1992, the group’s Booker T. Jones-produced Deep River – featuring a killer cover of Dylan’s “I Believe in You” – garnered a Grammy nomination.
2000s: Spirit of the Century soars, ultimately proving the most commercially successful Blind Boys release of their career. It won the 2001 Grammy for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album – they’ve won four additional Grammys and a Lifetime Achievement Award – and features several guest musicians including blues harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite. The album also delivers a rendition of Tom Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole,” which was used as the theme song for HBO’s The Wire.
2010s: In addition to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and other political minded songwriting luminaries, the Blind Boys were invited to perform at A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement hosted by the president and the first lady at the White House. They previously performed for President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.
Go Tell It On the Mountain: The Blind Boys of Alabama Holiday Show happens at 8pm Friday, Nov. 30, at Sunset Center, San Carlos Street at Ninth, Carmel. $49; $59; $69. 620-2048, www.sunsetcenter.org